Low-level long-lived waste
Low-level long-lived waste is mainly “radium-bearing” waste and waste termed “graphite” because it contains this element, a very pure form of carbon. Radium-bearing waste comes from processing of various minerals used, for example, in fi ne metallurgy. Graphite waste is generated during dismantling of fi rst generation nuclear reactors (graphite-moderated gas-cooled reactors), which have now been decommissioned. There are other sources of LLW-LL, such as old radioactive objects (radium fountains…), sealed sources (lightning conductors, fi re detectors, etc.). There is also some bituminised waste in this category. In most cases, production has either ceased or must cease shortly. LLW-LL contains, mostly, long-lived radionuclides. Disposal for this type of waste is currently under study.
Treatment and conditioning
Conditioning of LLW-LL has been developed over several years and is making gradual progress. At the present time, it is planned to emplace graphite waste in metal baskets which are then put into concrete containers. Cement would then be injected in the container, to be completely closed with a concrete lid. On the other hand, some radium-bearing waste is already packaged in metal drums. To facilitate handling of these packages, it is planned to group them into metal containers. Other radium-bearing waste, presently stored in bulk, would be placed directly in metal containers.
As prescribed by article 4 of the June 28th 2006 Planning Act, Andra has been studying the concept of shallow disposal, between 15 and 200m underground, for this category of waste. The outcome of this study is the commissioning of a repository by 2019, subject to government approval.
LLW-LL existing at the end of 2007:
- 7.2% of the total volume of French radioactive waste
- < 0.009% of the total radioactivity of French radioactive waste
Pending the creation of a suitable disposal facility, existing LLW-LL waste is stored at the production sites or in facilities which have traditionally used radioactive applications.
- A graphite sleeve surrounding the fuel used
- Radioactive lightning conductor head
- A radioactive fire detector
Distribution of the volume of LLW-LL by economic sector at the end of 2007